Yesterday, for the seventh time in five years, I typed an authors favorite two words…
I’m speaking symbolically of course…I’ve never actually typed those words at the end of a novel. I don’t think I’ve ever even seen them in a book, but I did finish the first draft of my latest, as of yet untitled, novel.
The irony is that, now that the first draft is finished, it’s not the end at all…it’s really only the beginning.
There’s still a lot of work to do before it is ready for you. In the next few days I will distribute copies to my beta-readers and wait for their feedback.
Beta readers are the unsung heroes of the book-writing world, and I’m lucky to have some really good ones.
None of them worry about hurting my feelings and each of them has contributed something that has improved my work in the past.
Like any author worth their salt, I am extremely grateful for them, and any input they offer is always taken very seriously. That’s not to say I act on all of it, but I definitely pay attention.
A few of my betas have been with me since the beginning, and a couple of them have only done one book. Along the way there have been some people who thought they wanted to be a beta, but unfortunately they didn’t understand the job description, so I had to keep looking until I found suitable replacements.
Didn’t understand the job description? How is that possible? Read the book and tell the author what you think…right?
It doesn’t sound like a complicated task, and in fact it isn’t…once the ground rules are clearly defined and understood.
When an author asks for beta readers, they aren’t asking for somebody to read a draft and tell them it’s the best thing they’ve ever read. We aren’t delusional; we all know what Hemingway said…
No, what we are asking for is someone to read a first draft and punch holes in it.
We don’t want to hear about missing commas or spelling mistakes…that’s part of the editing process.
A beta reader’s primary responsibility is to tell the author what they didn’t like about the book.
- Things that didn’t make sense in the story.
- Characters that weren’t believable
- Dialogue that didn’t ring true
- Anything that made them stop and say well that just ain’t right
The author is asking you to rip the story to shreds. Even if it’s just as simple as saying The story just didn’t grab me.
So, for the next two or three weeks my book will be in the hands of people who are tasked with picking it apart, so I can put it back together before I send it to the editor…who will then proceed to pick it apart some more.
All of this is done in hopes that you, the reader, won’t know how bad the first draft really was.
As always – thank you for reading